Little Bell’s Big Recovery

Much improved Bell the Ringneck Dove

Bell 3/11/15

Little Ringneck Dove Bell (along with her healthy mate Reed) came in to our care in December with a big problem- torticollis (a neurological movement disorder characterized by a twisted neck and tilted head) so severe that it triggered violent tumbling panic attacks resembling seizures. Her terrible fits battered and bruised her little body, breaking feathers, abrading skin, exhausting her, threatening her future. She needed very special care to help reduce the fits and support her long recovery. (See Little Bell’s Big Problem)

Luckily, Palomacy supporter Carole, a life-long rescuer in town for an extended stay, was willing and able to take on Bell’s extremely challenging care. Because Carole is from Ireland, we call her Bell and Reed’s foster mum.

Carole bravely took on a very nerve-wracking responsibility. Despite pain meds and antibiotics, Bell’s tumbling fits were, in the beginning, almost uncontrollable. Between them, she would eat or rest, but we never knew when another one would start and they were terrible. Such a fragile little bird- whirling and banging herself silly no matter how thickly we padded her area.

Carole was very creative in crafting ways to swaddle, soothe and protect Bell.

Bell comfy and close to foster mum in her roposo

Bell comfy and close to foster mum in her roposo

Bell snuggled in sweater sleeve

Bell swaddled in a sweater sleeve 12/23/14

The floor of her crate was raised to make it cozier and the interior was padded and draped with soft, breathable fabrics to provide dark, quiet sanctuary. (Open space worsened her disorientation and increased panic attacks.)

Carole hand feeding Bell

Foster mum Carole nourished Bell in many ways

And Bell was (and still is) so clever about self-sequestering when she needed to steady herself. She’d go back into the depths of the draped cloths to get peace from the panic attacks and come out to the slightly more open front when she felt well enough.

Bell in draped fabric

Bell choosing to only semi-self-sequester

Carole worked with Bell to help her get exercise and enrichment and she did a sort of “dove occupational therapy” so that Bell could remaster her neurological system and create new, healthier-functioning pathways in her tortured little brain.

Foster mum Carole protecting Bell during her out time

Foster mum Carole keeps a hand close in case a fit should strike

Reed & Bell eating together on the floor

Reed & Bell share a meal & some time together

Bell getting special food in foster mum's lap

Carole supplemented Bell’s diet for maximum nutrition

Reed eating kasha 23dec (1 of 1)

Bell’s (healthy) mate Reed eating kasha

And while Carole nursed frail Bell, she also helped lonesome Reed to get through a very stressful time. She befriended him (he wasn’t tame when he came in) and soothed his broken heart. He had to be housed separately from Bell (her fits scared him and he could sometimes be aggressive) but he was always near her.

Bell in her crate with Reed perched on top

Reed staying close to his Bell

And Carole became an important new friend for him, and he for her.

Reed the dove happily perched on Carole's hand

Foster mum Carole with Reed

When it came time for foster mum Carole to return to Ireland at the end of January, I took Bell and Reed back in to my foster care. Bell had very slowly but very surely improved and I was really worried that the transition and/or loss of Carole’s special care could set her back.

Bell in her special crate 1/30/15

Bell in her specially modified crate 1/30/15

Bell visiting Reed in his cage and sharing a snack of millet on 1/30/15 .

Bell, markedly improved, having another visit with Reed on 2/7/15.

Intrepid little Bell did great though. She adjusted to the new routine and company without a hitch and she is still improving. Even today, 3/11/15, she is better than she was yesterday.

Bell wrapped in Carole's wool scarf

Bell 2/5/15, wrapped in what I call Carole’s magic scarf

Dr. Olsen smiling with Bell

Dr. Olsen thrilled with Bell’s improvement 2/10/15

Bell sunbathing and looking great

Bell so improved she can sunbathe & live in an near-normal cage 2/20/15

Bell preening lots of new flight feathers

Less tumbling means new feathers breaking less 2/27/15

Bell’s condition is continuously improving and her life is expanding as it does.

Healthy dove Reed flirts with steadily improving dove Bell

Reed on a date with his still-recovering Bell 3/1/15

Dove Bell enjoying the sun with pigeon Jacob and dove Reed

3/3/15 Bell is well enough to enjoy some walk-about time with Jacob & Reed

Pat Bell Craig Newmark Amelio 030515

Bell joins Pat & Amelio on her first outreach meeting Craig Newmark 3/5/15

Bell gets lots of Likes on our Facebook page

Bell has a loyal following of loving fans on our Facebook page

Bell with head twisted in torticollis posture

Bell’s torticollis is not completely cured & she still tumbles once in awhile

Sleepy Reed settled in

Reed is patiently waiting for Bell to recover so they can be together

Bell looking beautiful and alert

Bell today, 3/11/15, looking forward to a bright future

We don’t know what caused Bell’s terrible torticollis. We can rule out a tumor because that would have gotten worse rather than better. Some think PMV but she’s never had the impaired motor control or palsy that is typically seen with that so I’m not convinced. Whatever caused Bell’s condition, it has left Reed completely unscathed. We hope that someday soon, they can move back in together, resume their romance and put this long ordeal behind them. Thank you all for helping us help Bell and Reed and all the other little birds. They want to live.

Please make a donation in support of our work if you can. 



  1. Pingback: Little Bell’s Big Problem | Palomacy

  2. Elizabeth, what a beautiful, heart-warming story!! Bell is *so lucky* to have had Carole’s love, patience, and dedication to helping her feel safe and recover from such a terrible condition. How wonderful that she is doing so much better now (what a huge difference!) and continues to receive love and care from you, with the ever-patient Reed always near her. ☺ Her future is bright now– Yea!!

  3. How is she now? I absolutely adore this little dove, and would love to adopt her and her partner, but I live all the way in Tucson AZ. I’m afraid the move all the way here would stress her out too much, and worsen her condition.

    • Hi, Jasmine- Bell has come a long ways closer to health but still has setbacks now & then. She & Reed definitely need a very special home. Please complete our application (on the Birds tab). We might be up for a road trip to Tuscon…

      • It’s quite tempting, to be honest. I’ll have to find a couple of good-sized cages, or build one big enough with a divider (which would be removable for the near future). What are your suggested dimensions?

  4. Pingback: Little Bell’s Big News! |


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